France: Chemical Massacre Requires 'Strong Reaction'
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday that all indications show that the Syrian government was behind a "chemical massacre" last week against its own people.
"All the information at our disposal converges to indicate that there was a chemical massacre near Damascus and that the Bashar regime is responsible," Fabius said on a visit to Ramallah.
A preliminary assessment made by U.S. and allied intelligence agencies concludes that chemical weapons were indeed used by Syrian forces in an attack near Damascus this week.
U.N. Under Secretary General Angela Kane was in Damascus on Saturday for talks aimed at establishing an inquiry into the alleged attacks. A team of UN arms inspectors has been in Syria since last Sunday to probe three sites where previous chemical attacks allegedly took place, but the government has yet to say if it will let them inspect the latest allegations.
"We ask that the UN team that is there can be deployed very quickly and make the necessary inspections," Fabius said. "The information which we have shows that this chemical massacre is of such gravity that it obviously cannot pass without a strong reaction," he added.
The New York Times reports that U.S. President Barack Obama's national security aides are studying the NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations.
Russia is likely to veto any military action in the Security Council, and Obama is wary of bypassing the UN. “If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work?” Obama said on Friday to CNN.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Russia and China for torpedoing a UN Security Council resolution that would have demanded that the Damascus regime give UN inspectors complete freedom of operation. She told Focus magazine that the inspectors must be allowed to visit the site of the latest alleged chemical bombing.
Le Figaro reports that Israeli and Jordanian commandos as well as CIA operatives are embedded in Syrian rebel units that are currently operating in Dera, near Damascus. According to the report, U.S. forces in Jordan have been training Syria rebels for several months.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday that if claims that Syria used chemical weapons several days ago are true, a speedy response will be needed to prevent another such attack.